Numbering The Stars
by Abbey Carter

Who could understand,
In ignorant ease, what we others suffer
As the paths of exile stretch endlessly on?
And yet my heart wanders away,
My soul roams with the sea, the wales'
Home, wandering to the wildest corners
Of the world, returning ravenous with desire,
Flying solitary, screaming, exciting me
To the open ocean, breaking oaths
On the curve of a wave.
-"The Seafarer", trans. Burton Raffel

The corridors are empty, the sun sets slowly. Starfleet Command is not a place of violent explosions, or hurried command decisions.

"There's no jump in sight." Kathryn is standing at the picture window in his office, tracing the streams of rain flowing against the glass.

"What do you mean?" Owen asks, walking from his desk toward where she stands.

"Owen, I think I mean there's no challenge here. At least not a visible one." She has just been promoted; the rank bar is still untarnished on her vest.

He laughs softly. "Kathryn, I've worked here for many years. You'll find a challenge. Don't worry about that."

"How long did it take for you get bored," she fires back.

"I'm not bored. Where'd you get that impression?"

"Owen, you can tell me the truth. We're both admirals now."

There was a time when Owen had to keep orders and intelligence from her, and he remembers those times; she'd look past him, failing to hide her sense of betrayal. And now with this rank change, he has no excuse for hiding from her.

She flinches at his hand on her shoulder, tightens as he stands with her. The light has faded to gray, and Owen watches as her eyes strain farther and farther away.

"You miss the ship."

Now, Owen remembers his visit to her ship, and how changed Kathryn was.

As Voyager spun towards Earth, he beamed aboard. It had been a long time since he'd been in a captain's quarters, and that night at dinner, her eyes were lit with memories of battle in the foreign quadrant.

"You got home," he whispered, and she half-smiled, and clasped his hand with thin, ruthless fingers. He became aware of noises at about that time, of a crash and some sort of moan. She glared, and stood. He remembered that she had always flushed easily, and was surprised at her emotionless face as she picked up her plate and led him into her bedroom.

"No soundproofing, Kathryn?"

"There was no need for it until recently. Waste of ship's resources."

Owen quickly recreated her senior staff in his mind. Apparently, she was never rid of their presence, even here. Now, she lived between their needs, their sounds.

There were few resources in his past, when she served under him, he r emembered. The walls were thinner then, the ships less sturdy, the desperation more obvious. And yet he had found the traitorous way he wanted her harder to control because of her always silent quarters.

He sat at the small table she cleared, quickly averted his eyes from her undisturbed bed.

"I take it you've been living alone, then?"

He saw her tighten; half animal, half woman, all captain.

"Alone? A strange sort of alone, I suppose. My subordinates, Owen. It would have been wrong."

The silence fermented, the time came to catalogue their own history.

"Would it have been, Kathryn, would it have been?"

Another cry from next door pierced Kathryn, and Owen recalled his own wrongs against her. During one mission, they'd been forced to land on a barren planet. After hours of setting up camp, he'd found her among the supplies, pulled her to him. She was sunburned; it was only the relative enormity of his handprint against her red shoulder that shocked him into turning away.

"You...I loved you, Admiral. I still do." She took his hand again, and the ship slipped forward.

On Earth, watching her now, Owen is reminded that he has no power. Not over the rain or his fluctuating strength that recedes along with his hairline every year. Not over this silent wanting. He doesn't have power over her anymore and can't order her to turn and speak to him, or accept this life.

"It was a long time for me. Don't-- Don't do this. We'll find a way." He is turning to her, his hand scraping her neck, the other grasping a side that's been leaned on far too many times. She's still short, fits under him. Their bodies close, and she leans upwards, face pained, and kisses him.

She trembles briefly in his arms; he remembers all their battles together. A seven-year war, strangely alone. Certainly not what they went through, surely a greater challenge. Feeling her now; hard muscle and bone encircling him, he can only remember how young she once was.

She pulls away, grabs her jacket. He follows her outside, follows her down the street. He first met Kathryn when she was three weeks old, feigned interest at the reception. That was before his wife moved three systems away and he gave his son up as spiritually lost. As he remembers Edward Janeway and the past, he supposes that his conscience should be stinging right now. It isn't.

Kathryn plows on ahead of him, takes the stairs, takes them two at a time now. He hurries to keep up.

The apartment he enters is silent and bare. He swore never to hurt her, never to let harm befall her. He remembers the ceremony in which she was promoted to captain, in which she took command of the Billings. Losing her was a unique trauma--the salutes wavered slightly, her grip was almost fierce--and he won't let her get lost again. Not here.

Her mouth is insistent on his, she finds him through the uniform, drags him back into days where only the visible enemy could inspire terror, and all she seemed to need was new orders and the quick press of his hand on her shoulder.

When he wakes, she is dressing for work.

"I was just about to get you up." She smiles to him, throws him a uniform. "I replicated you a new one."

They walk to the office together. Throughout the day, he relives what the years made of her, and just how her body shook with his. Through all the analysis, he finds that he needs this as much as she does, maybe more.


He goes home with her again, and wakes later to find her gone. The balcony door is open, and she stands outside, face bent heavenwards and hair flapping in the breeze. Owen goes over to the replicator and then walks to her, blanket in hand.

"It's going to get cold."

She smiles as he stands next to her, and he turns his face up to the stars.

"You taught me that one."

"Which, Kathryn?"

"Altair. Remember?"

Maybe he imagines that her voice cracks slightly, that her eyes widen as she recalls.

He does remember. He remembers the star charts he used at the Academy. He remembers flying near that star with Kathryn, and how her face was bright with sun and amazement.

There are 1,958 stars visible on this night, from this balcony. There is a story and a warp trail behind each of them; some stories they do not speak of.

"I remember them all."

They lie down together; he covers them with the blanket, grabs a chaise cushion for his back. The stars stay up late, and he does not want to sleep.



"I'd like to tell you some stories."

And so she does, slowly.

"...The first jump into Warp. I was in Science. After awhile, the undertone seeped into the room. A buzz. You only heard its absence." She leans into him, breathes the night. "Like these insects. Do you hear them now? I didn't realize it at that moment, but I'd spend my life under that same strange rhythm. In any foreign space, the background noise remained the same."

Owen is still for a few moments, digesting the essence of Kathryn's sadness--the stone silence of empty offices, empty apartments, bleak foggy horizons.

"It took me longer. To realize what I'd given up. After they pronounced Voyager lost, I knew you weren't dead. It wasn't death I feared for you. It was your ship taken, your crew enslaved on a distant planet. You commanding them there, and having no power to stop their pain."

"You always did. We got through it."

The stars burn and wink as a cold breeze rushes by.

"You know the promises I broke and all the ways I failed that ship. You've got the scars, and you've heard me weak."

"I still trust you." Her arm closes over his side. "I forgave you. What you do to yourself is another matter. I failed my crew. They just didn't hear me scream."

She tells him more about the Borg, of the quickness slithering her blood. She tells him of a cruel man who would have followed her, were it not for his own uniform.

"Did you want him?" Owen asks, chuckling at her fascination with this stranger and his land, sliding his fingers across her stomach.

"Want? Yes, very much. But I couldn't trust him. I tend to need that."

"And you trust me?"

"I told you, Admiral. Just now. And shouldn't my previous actions mitigate your doubt?"

"Really? This trust that you speak of, I've never been quite sure."

"Take me back inside and I'll prove it to you."

When he looks at her body, the beauty he finds is in the legs he has seen sprint, the hair he has seen blown and torn, the hands that have gripped his in strength, and her mouth of countless commands.

He is good at giving her pleasure. He knows just where it hurts, just how to build it into the good sort of scream he imagines she'd given up on. When she falls beside him, spent, he does not let go of her, and enters sleep with the knowledge that his love is as firm and immovable as the stars appeared in that night's sky.


He sees Chakotay the next morning. The younger man says little about his time on Voyager, thanks the Admiral for his consideration. He is planning for some sort of a future with Seven, needs the specifics for a job at the Academy. Owen has no trouble giving him the information.

Owen would think Chakotay a shy man, were it not for his slight smirk and his ready strings of explanation. Chakotay asks how Kathryn is enjoying the admiralty, in the same tone he would use to address a lost and half-forgotten mission. Maybe Chakotay thinks there isn't enough left of Kathryn to hurt.

Owen can almost see the wide arc encircling him and Kathryn, the forces of time and space that conspired to bring about this moment. He thinks Chakotay has never loved all of her. He's not an explorer. He wouldn't know.

Owen replies that Kathryn is enjoying it immensely.

That night, Kathryn paces her kitchen, swilling down coffee.

"So, Chakotay was at the office today, I heard."

"So quickly, eh?"

"B'Elanna likes to keep her old captain in the loop. Well, he didn't stop by and see me. That's his choice."

"And I take it you're not eager to resolve whatever happened out there, either."

She inhales deeply, sucking steam over her clenched jaw. "We're not having this conversation. I never talked about it with him. You understand my reasons for that. I have nothing to say."

"Was it difficult?"

She recoils slightly, and he can see the cogs in her brain rapidly turning over to rephrase and polish this request.

"It was a challenge. It was a challenge I failed to measure up to. It appears that I lost a friend in the process."

"And you can't ever go back, reach out again?"

"Do I want to?"

He looks to the stars.

"I can tell you millions of reasons why."

She pads up behind him, voice gentle. "You don't need to, you know that."


The Federation's birthday arrives. There are bright fireworks, long speeches. Picard sidesteps a glaring Admiral Nechayev, looks straight at Kathryn as he walks to them. He nods to Owen, asks Kathryn about the latest paper on the Borg.

Owen is sweating on the balcony; the night is sighing with exhaustion. Kathryn appears in her deep blue dress, hands him a wineglass.

"I've got to ask you something before I forget."

"Senior moment, Owen?"

"Yes, actually. I've wondered if you feel constrained by me, or have wanted someone a little more nimble and youthful." The smile won't leave his voice.

She laughs, takes another sip of wine.

"Owen, you know my record with younger men."

"I think we can leave now," he whispers conspiratorially. All the night stretches before him, and he's not tied to a wife's curfew or cleanup duty.

"Any nocturnal travel suggestions? I was away for some time."

"You promised me a tour of Voyager on your return, did you not? 'Three weeks, sir? Yes sir. I'll see you then. Wait till you see her.'"

"You've been on Voyager."

"Haven't had the fifty-cent tour, though."

As they walk outside on the Presidio, the lights shift; the lights of her ship cover her face midsmile. They approach it slowly. He climbs the fence with her, follows as she circles around the nacelle, slips under the ship. She pauses, running her hand along the belly of the ship until she finds a hatch that welcomes her. The metal clicks down; she smoothes a hand over the opening. He doesn't know what, if any, securities she's overridden, but the ship seems to recognize her. She puts her hands on her hips and surveys the challenge at hand.

"Owen, a leg up, if you please."

Her heel wobbles on his knee; she grunts and sways as he holds her leg steady. A clang, and she's above him, extending two arms to pull him up.

Owen lies sprawled on the cool grating; his hand grasps what feels like the juncture of Kathryn's calf and ankle.

"Get up, Admiral."

"Where are we?"

"Deck 15, Section 12. Energy requisition. There's a flashlight here somewhere, if I'm lucky."

Seconds later, light burns his eyes.

"Hey! Careful where you point that."

"Hurry up, dear." She clicks along quickly, holding the ship's side. The decking is narrow; he trips over small steps until she slows and points at the wall.

"This is the Bio-Neural Circuitry. It was revolutionary at the time, I'm sure you remember. Saved us on several occasions. Now, how to the other decks? Are you up for some climbing?"

It's been years since he's been inside a Jeffries Tube. Kathryn hands him the flashlight, forces the doors to the tube open with a groan. They crawl inside; Kathryn's heel clatters on the grating as she moves. He is not as strong as he used to be, but it is good to know that he can still scramble through narrow passages and pull himself up several decks, all the while in hot pursuit of Kathryn.

"Now, we come to the mess. We got rid of the private dining room after arriving out there. Neelix, my cook, wanted us all to feel at home. He produced his own recipes for the crew. Appalled us all, frequently."

After a climb through another tube, she takes the flashlight, moves forward in the corridor. "I wanted to show you the bridge a long time ago." When they reach it, she slows. Light bounces off the viewscreen, onto her chair. She sits in it, bare legs sliding on the leather. "It was a good view."

Outside the bridge, she tells him about sentient gas clouds and the strange creatures that attacked her crewmen. Tells him about the memory of holding a phaser rifle and screaming against indecision and atrocity, the memory so real she'd known the feelings had not belonged to someone else.

Engineering is silent; no warp signature fills the air. She points the flashlight across the room; revealing consoles, more grating, and an empty warp core. The light swings about the ceiling, swings faster and trembles as he moves his hand up her leg. Here, where it is most quiet, Owen is turning her in the darkness, spinning her until she sways against him, heels dancing out a new rhythm on the deck. He is surely mapping the warmth of her bones as he lifts the ribbed fabric of her dress. He can't see her expression, but can feel heat rolling off her body, can hear her breathing stop and then quicken as his hand finds her.

"God. Owen."

The flashlight clatters to the floor, she draws closer to him, crying into the heart of the ship.

When they leave, security is out. She giggles as they evade ensigns pacing in formation, as they duck behind nacelles and then tree trunks until the way is clear.

They transport back to his house, and fall into an easy, deep sleep.


"Dad, you there? Dad?" Tom's voice echoes through the house.

Owen wakes to the clamor, pulls an arm around Kathryn's prone form.

"Dad!" Tom is standing in front of him, shock evident.

"Tom, sometimes I sleep in. It doesn't mean I've died."

"But, you said I could come by around now, and I thought that--"

Kathryn yawns, pulls at the large t-shirt she'd donned the night before. Upon seeing Tom she starts slightly, eyes suddenly wide, if only for a moment. "Hello, Tom. Good to see you."

"Likewise, Captain. I'm a bit surprised to find you here."

"I suppose. But your father and I have always been close. He taught me how to be a captain."

"You were born with that," Owen murmurs, stretching his leg.

"Tom, if you'll excuse us for a minute. I've got to get some proper clothes on."

"Ah, sure." Tom nods slightly, walks out.

Kathryn shuffles to the replicator, and Owen can see that she's exhausted.

He dresses quickly and finds Tom sitting on his couch, apparently deep in thought.

"Tom, would you like to discuss this?"

"I guess I don't have much of a choice." As Tom appears to compose his thoughts, Owen waits for the worst. "I guess I don't understand why she's with you. It's sort of unexpected."

Owen is very careful to remain calm. "Shared history. We've got the same schedule, the same work. She understands me, I understand her; it works out pretty well. You and your mother might not share this opinion, but Kathryn finds me reasonably interesting and fun to be around."

"We've had children."

"Excuse me?" Owen clenches his palms, looks around the room for Kathryn.

"In the Delta Quadrant. We left them at the planet after we became human again. We had been lizards."

"Oh. All right then."

Owen watches Tom's face as Kathryn enters the room. Apparently, he should be grateful that Tom is happily married.

Kathryn sits next to Owen, and begins to speak.

"Now, Tom. You said that you needed to discuss something with your father?"

"Well, I was thinking about a setting up a day for Dad to come over and visit. Miral would certainly like to see more of you. How about next weekend?"

"Diplomatic conference on Vulcan," Owen replies.

"After that?"

"A meeting with the Ferengi trade council." Owen tightens, begins to think of other options.

"Anytime soon?" Tom's voice rises.

"I can't control these things, Tom. Maybe next Wednesday afternoon."

"I'll check with B'Elanna." The accusation is still there; Owen does not care to make time, has no life but his uniform.

Kathryn draws closer to him, and he is grateful that her instincts match his.

A call jolts Owen from his machinations, and he springs out of the room to the comm.

When he emerges, Kathryn has his son laughing nervously.

"There's been an accident. They want me at Headquarters."

"Me too?"

"No. You're fine. I'll have to be off."

"Will they take you off world?"

"Depends. Cardassia, Romulans. An explosion. It could get much worse."

Kathryn squeezes his hand, turns over the event in her mind. "I'll be around soon. Don't work too hard."

Owen leaves Kathryn to convince his son that the constraints of the job are worth it, and that time can be made, eventually.


When Owen is finished his negotiations, he meets Kathryn at her desk.

"Long night?"

"You can say that again." He sighs, sinks into her couch.

"Well. I've heard the Cardassians weren't very easy to negotiate with."

"They couldn't trust us, they kept saying."

Kathryn laughs mirthlessly.

"And they have issues with trust."

"I know." He stands, noticing how small she is compared to the desk, noticing the way the light fades over her head at just this time of day. "I'm going home."

"I'll be here awhile. I think...I'd like to be alone. Just for a little bit. I need to think. You understand?"

"Yes. I think I'll call Tom. I'll see you soon, then."

Owen is not worried, but he wonders what is bothering her. Is it their past? Voyager? Or the bleak future she envisions? He knows that if she does not get a ship now, she will never have one.

After he has set up a day to visit Tom and Miral, Owen replicates a meal, listens to the newsfeeds. At night, he lies awake, waiting for the next call to come.

Owen waits for three days. Four days. He finds the familiar loneliness slipping into the day's simplest tasks, misses her while walking, while taking his coffee break. At work, she is careful not to scare him. She sits near him at meetings, clasps his hand firmly when they meet. She is careful to let him know that she has not left. But she is not present, either.


At the end of a week's time, Kathryn lets him go home with her. As they walk towards her apartment, she explains that she has explored her options.

"The new crop of captains will be large. And my negatives in regards to getting a ship are already high enough. If I don't start making noise about a ship, six months from now there will be no possibility."

"And you want to go out again, you've decided?"

She sighs, kicks a pebble down the walk. "I think I do. I think I can handle it."

"Yes, you can certainly handle the Alpha Quadrant and its creatures. I think we've established that."

"I wanted to know if I could do it again. The being mostly alone."

"You can do it. I know you can. Whether you want to or not, well...You can think on that." He remembers talking to her about command; her great potential was always there, it was only his job to make her realize it. Has his role changed so much?

"It's selfish."


"I've had my time. I've got this job. With you. Should be satisfied, don't you think?"

They reach her apartment, he waits to reply until she has opened the door and kicked her boots off.

"Are we ever? Do you think I am?"

"You hide it better than I do." She stretches her neck, walks to her kitchen. "Coffee, black."

Owen knows that he is responsible for several of Kathryn's vices, but he can't remember if coffee is one of them. He walks up behind her, finds her hand clammy from the hot mug.

"I've had more practice than you," he says.

"You mean to tell me there's a learning curve with these things?" She laughs weakly; he traces the range of her knuckles with his thumb.


"I'll give you time."

"How was Tom?"

"Good. We're making progress. I ate my gagh."

"And you complimented B'Elanna on it? She's just taken up Klingon cuisine."

"Well...I meant to."

Later, as she sleeps, Owen marvels at the difference a week makes. Tonight, Kathryn stalked towards him, her face hard with the light of streets and stars. She did not want gentleness, but it was exhausting for him to resist the long ingrained instinct to protect her from herself.

She wanted pain, and Owen wishes that didn't hurt him so much.


They go out for breakfast. As she walks, the fog blows between them, obscures the row of cafés, her body. She disappears for a moment, and Owen knows that there is more than one form of being lost. He remembers her stories, and knows that a person can only beat death so many times before forgetting how to live. She emerges with a cluster of irises, violent bright against the white of her blouse.


"I'm sorry. Lost you there for a second." Kathryn's lips tremble upward. "I saw them. And realized I'm not rationed. It wouldn't be wasteful. I can buy something unnecessary. And beautiful."

They go to his house. He sets the flowers in water, as she intones that she could not lose one more thing. It is somewhat of a relief; he thinks she is coming back. Maybe more like the younger woman he knew. He draws a palm across her face, collapses his arm around her, making it known that distance and separation never rid him of her before.


The shuttle is cramped.

"Kathryn, tell me again how we missed the first flight."

She rubs her temple as one of the wiggling Bolian children across the aisle emits a high-pitched scream.

"I'm sorry, really. But space with late reservations is limited."

He notes how out of place they are, two Starfleet admirals in full dress, en route to a trade convention on Risa.

"Well, it's all right. It's not every day we get assignments like this."

She chuckles. "I know. It's going to be hard work, huh?"

One of the toddlers across from him is crawling on his elder, and the translator registers cries of "Mommy, are we there yet?"

"Well, there are certain occupational hazards," Owen muses.

Kathryn looks out the window, sighs. He can see that she's tired, and is about to inquire after her headache when the shuttle swerves sideways, jolts upside down through the air. Bright light surrounds them.

He is pinned against the bulkhead, hears disembodied screams, and the scream of space around the shuttle.

When they stop falling, he finds Kathryn still next to him, and winces at the dull groan of alloy and bone.

"Did I break anything of yours, Kathryn?"

She straightens, walks a step. "I'm fine. The question is...Where are we?" The viewport doesn't reveal any telltale phenomena, and Owen prays this isn't another seven-year away mission.

They find the ensign in command frantic in the cockpit. "Admirals! I don't know what threw us. The sensors showed nothing, we're at dead stop, I don't--"

"--Ensign, let's find out where we are." Kathryn extends a hand toward the pilot, and Owen watches, imagines her and the crew, thrown from the Alpha Quadrant, her first days commanding them there.

The young man presses the controls frantically. "They're dead, sir."

"We have emergency power. A distress signal is possible," Owen says.

"I'll get right on it, sir."

Kathryn grabs his arm, pulls him toward the door. "Owen, the wiring is fried in the back. Do we have a sufficient toolkit?"

"Yes, that's standard issue. Right?"

"Not when I was last in this quadrant. Good to know the bureaucracy made some changes while we were gone."

He follows her to the back of the shuttle, watches as she assures the shaken passengers that all will be well. The Bolian toddler clings to Kathryn's calf; she disentangles it with a smile and slight squeeze, nudges it toward its mother.

They are alone in the back of the shuttle, doing a job he hasn't struggled over for many years. He helps Kathryn remove coverings from the electrical panels, watches her eyes light with adrenaline and something he can't quite place. "Does it take you back?" she asks, smoothing her hand over a bulkhead. "Young. Low rank. And this"--she points to a charred module--"was your biggest life crisis. Your only problem."

Owen laughs, hands her the spanner.


When sensors become active, it is easily ascertained that the shuttle was thrown several light years from the Risa system. Owen is relieved by this news, but wonders how a full shuttle with a dead warp core will make it to the planet. As he tells passengers the news, Kathryn works the controls with the pilot. They wait. Owen remembers that the speeches are beginning now, and supposes that he is much better off missing them.

The ship that hails them is Ferengi. Owen stands next to Kathryn, ready to ask their would-be rescuer his price. Kathryn grins at Mr. Frak, tells him what a handsome and well equipped ship he has. Owen remembers his upcoming meeting with the Ferengi merchant groups, and adds that any services he renders will be generously returned.

Soon, they are underway.


After the business aspects of their trip are completed for the day, they go walking. The sun bleeds over paradise, and they watch hordes of tourists frolic in the half-light.

"Not as simple as that anymore, is it?" she murmurs, drawing up to him.

"It's better this way," he says. "But wonder if it's worth it."

"Worth it," she echoes, surveying the dying scene in front of them. "Sometimes you don't want to question. To weigh two paths."

"When are you requesting the ship?"

"Owen, don't assume." She looks away, turns at the crunch of gravel from passersby.

"I know you. After thirty-two years, I think I'm more than qualified to make an inference." His voice is soft, careful around the situation's gravity.

She takes his hand with a force that shouldn't surprise him, but still does. "Have I been good to you? Here, then, wherever? These years, I can't hold them down."

"Failure's still your biggest fear," he whispers, looking at her form go red and orange by turns. "If you'd been failing, I would have let you know. It's a job I know well. And now, you will take a ship. I'll be on Earth, and I'll find something to do."

She presses her side against his, pauses for a moment. "And maybe, we can try the whole 'fun' thing here."

As they walk back to the hotel, Kathryn laughs at their aged crabbiness. "Has it been that long? thirty-two years since the Academy?"

"Time flies, or so they say," Owen replies. He would like to add that some parts dragged horribly, that some years stretched beyond belief. What flew by was the time he spent in space, the time he spent with Kathryn.


Her ship is called Victory. It is an old vessel, refitted with the latest technology for a new mission. For her. Owen thought that Kathryn would want a new ship; want a history to make her own. But she looked at him incredulously, laughed at the notion of needing a shiny new command. "We suit each other, me and this old ship," she said. After Risa, she signaled her intent. And she has been pushing forward ever since.

Owen is unsure what Victory means. Victory over the bureaucracy, over him? But as he watches her returning flushed from visits to the ship, he remembers the larger victory. This life, this moving forward. She takes him, she takes a ship, she goes on. And he wonders how long ago he gave up on the pressure she still hungers for.

She will leave in the morning and promises to comm as long as she is in range. Deep space has gotten considerably shallower, he reminds himself. They will know where she is. It will be a year-long mission, a year-long wait. Now, she stacks her bags by the apartment door, steps out onto the balcony with him.

She says that she will think of him often. He knows this to be her way of saying she will miss him, and he is grateful that she does not elaborate. It is not necessary. He looks at the sky, looks to Kathryn. He cannot count the places they have been, cannot know all of her thoughts, all of what has brought them here. But he has explored this sky, this woman, and he has memories beyond numbering.

She clutches his shoulder, and then walks to bed.

He turns to follow her, closes the door behind him. The building is silent. He straightens her boots by the door, and turns out the hall light.


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